New York City is joining Seattle and Berlin and other major cities in allowing for electric cargo bikes to park in commercial loading zones, in an effort to ease congestion and pollution. The pilot will apply to 100 bikes operating in Manhattan below 60th Street. "We really need to catch up here in New York," Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told reporters at a press conference in Midtown on Wednesday afternoon.

For months, Amazon has already been using 90 of those bikes to make Whole Foods deliveries in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but now UPS and DHL have committed to using them too. According to an Amazon rep, every bike replaces a truck. DHL says they will have three of the delivery bikes, which can carry 150 shipments and 300 lbs, replacing three trucks. UPS will start with two, but none of their trucks will be taken off the street. The city is restricting the bikes to 12 mph, a number which they say is about as fast as a fully loaded cargo bike can travel, but is slower than most other pedal-assisted e-bikes.

The pilot officially lasts six months, but will be expanded beyond the 100 bikes as necessary, something Commissioner Trottenberg said she hopes will happen "soon." The DOT is asking companies interested in participating to email them at

In 2017, 365 million tons of cargo entered, left, or passed through New York City, and at the current rate of e-commerce growth, that number is expected to rise to 540 million by 2045. Two million deliveries are made in the city every day. A recent DOT study of deliveries in East Midtown found that the kind of smaller trucks used by UPS and DHL accounted for around a quarter of deliveries, while larger box trucks made up more than 60 percent.

Alison Conway, a civil engineering professor at The City College of New York, who specializes in urban freight and city logistics, said that while the cargo bikes are currently being used to transport goods from local stores to other addresses in the city, they could potentially be used to take packages that come from out of town.

"The other way they're being used in international cities, is with urban consolidation centers. A truck would come in and park in an off-street loading space or maybe even an on-street loading space, and trans-load to these bikes. So the goods are moving into the city by truck, but are going onto the bikes for last-mile delivery."

To replace those trips, there needs to be a consolidation activity that the pilot doesn't address.

"Right now, I think that the biggest concern even with this pilot is the street space. What is the real implication for street space, particularly commercial loading space?" Conway said.

In addition to being able to park in commercial loading zones, the bikes will be able to pull up onto the sidewalk, so long as "walkways be kept clear and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act," a DOT release states.

For months, Amazon's cargo bike fleet has been using the sidewalk on the south side of Houston Street for staging.

One of those delivery workers, Logan Powell, 27, has been a bike courier for a third party, Breakaway Courier Systems, which delivers for Whole Foods from three of their grocery stores in the city. He's been on the job since September. Logan said if the city really wants to make cargo bike deliveries easier it'd be useful to have two-way bike lanes on one-way streets.

"We have to deal with the fact that cars and trucks don't see bikes as actual vehicles, so we're not seen," Powell said. "You have certain areas that don't really have room for bikes. The sidewalks are small, they're just for walking—it's really hard."

While the City celebrated the announcement, Dr. Do Lee, a member of the Deliver Justice Coalition, pointed out that immigrant delivery cyclists are still pulled over and ticketed for using what is essentially the same kind of technology.

Asked about the double-standard, Trottenberg, who tried one of the cargo bikes herself, insisted that the NYPD had dialed back the crackdown on e-bikes initiated by Mayor Bill de Blasio in October of 2017.

"I wouldn't say they've entirely stopped cracking down, but I think they've pulled back quite a bit on that enforcement," Trottenberg said. The NYPD's press office has not yet responded to our request for numbers on e-bike confiscations and citations.

A bill that passed both houses of the state legislature that would legalize all kinds of e-bikes and e-scooters on New York City streets is still awaiting the governor's signature. The governor has until the end of the year to sign it, otherwise the legislation dies.

A spokesperson for the governor's office told Gothamist that the bill is one of around 200 or so passed during the legislative session that is still being reviewed.

Trottenberg wouldn't say if she fully backed the legislation ("It's not for your humble commissioner to say") but added that "the de Blasio administration has generally been supportive."